A man who was born without a foot or a hand on his right side, who has never ridden a horse, is aiming to ride on Canada’s Paralympic dressage teams.
Jeffrey Beausoleil, from Quebec, has been accepted for a training programme, and has hopes for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The 21-year-old told H&H he has “fallen in love” with horses and riding, and it would be an honour to be considered for the Canadian team.
“All my life, I’ve wanted to prove people wrong,” he said.
“I’ve been told ‘you won’t be able to do that’, and that I won’t be successful. But I won’t be pushed down, and I have proved them wrong.
“My friend Susan, who knows the para team director, heard they were looking for people and she asked ‘what would the person need?’ He said: ‘The only thing they need is determination’, and she said: ‘I know the person’.”
Jeffrey said he has always loved horses and been fascinated by them. But, as one of four children, and with the expense of lessons, he has never sat on a horse.
His friend Susan Jamieson, CEO of Red Scarf Equestrian shop, taught him on a horse simulator, and a trainer with experience of teaching para riders has been lined up so he can get started once lockdown lifts.
“The simulator was a bit scary at first but I fell in love with it, and it made me want to learn more,” Jeffrey said.
“I’m going to be part of the development team, so I will have to learn and prove myself, and compete, and then maybe be part of the team. It’s pretty exciting.”
Jeffrey, who has competed in 20 gruelling obstacle races in the Canadian mountains, said he hopes that by proving his doubters wrong, he will help show others what is possible.
“I don’t feel disabled; just differently abled,” he said. “This is another way to prove to people what can be done if you set your mind to it.
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“I wear a prosthetic for my foot but feel more disabled when I wear one on my right arm. Because I didn’t lose my hand, I was born without it – I won’t say I’ve had it easy as that’s not true, but I have learned to live without it.
“People have said what if I could have surgery and have a hand, and I say no, because I’d have to learn to live again. I’m happy the way I am; my disability made me the person I am, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“Someone could offer me a million dollars and I’d say no. My disability is part of me.”
And if he does make it on the team, Jeffrey will not be there to make up the numbers.
“I told my team: gold is the goal,” he said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can, put my heart into it and do whatever it takes.”
Ms Jamieson added: “How many other young people are out there like Jeffrey, who would love the opportunity to ride if given the chance? Maybe we can tell these young people that if your dream of riding exists, we want to help. It will be tons of hard work, but the joys of the equestrian world doesn’t belong to a select few.
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